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Accepting Our Failures and Our Joys

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Laura Castleman, LPC Clinician

As a mental health counselor, you can imagine that I think about the topic of mental health on a daily basis. As I work to educate and support my clients in their journeys towards balanced mental health, I notice some themes coming up. All of my amazing clients have unique stories and personalities, and what “mental health” means to each of them will be different. But some things come up again and again, and one of them is the difference between the words “but” and “and.”

When each of us reflect on our day, we can identify moments that we enjoyed or felt calm, and moments when we felt upset, scared or sad. When we think back, it can be easy to negate positive experiences: I gave a really good presentation at work, but I got stumped by one question from the audience, so I probably looked like an idiot. We can even ignore negative experiences that may need our attention: The movie brought up a lot of my feelings of missing my mom since she died, but the snacks were good so I just blinked back my tears and focused on my milkshake.

By switching “but” to “and,” we create a micro-tool for acceptance. We can recognize that we are fortunate to have enough in life and struggle with tough emotions. We can experience frustration and reflect in gratitude on our day. By switching our language from “but” to “and,” we create room for all of our experience, instead of pitting two aspects of our day against each other.

I gave a really good presentation at work and I got stumped by one question from the audience. I guess I’ll do more research on that topic. Overall, I think my boss was impressed!

The movie brought up a lot of feelings of missing my mom since she died and the milkshakes were good. I was grateful to have a comforting snack and now I’m going to call a friend to talk about my mom.

It takes work, but we can hold both our challenging experiences and the joy and success in our lives at the same time. When we do this, we allow ourselves to feel more honestly so that we can care for ourselves more generously.

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